Tha D airson Dannsa | D is for Dance

How do we encourage collaboration and exchange across all traditional dance forms practised in Scotland? The short answer is that we, at Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland, offer support through three major routes – festivals, productions and residencies. Let’s zoom in on the range of residencies as one of these support routes we initiate, champion and secure funding for. Tha D airson Dannsa | D is for Dance is only one of the three programmes of residencies we currently curate and deliver thanks to our funders and partners – Primary, Festival and Research Residencies.


The Primary Residencies take their descriptive name after our hosts – the state-funded primary schools across Scotland. We initiated these residencies at three schools in Edinburgh and Musselburgh following the COVID outbreak as part of our campaign for Scottish and world trad dance becoming one of the primary ingredients of our primary school education. Amongst the primary resident artists so far we have featured Caroline Brockbank, Angel Godwin, Eleanor Sinclair and Alison Carlyle.


The Festival Residencies are part of our Pomegranates festival highlighting the intrinsic link of traditional dance with poetry, film, music, heritage crafts and sustainable fashion. To mention but a few – the poets Jim Mackintosh and Ian McMillan, the Hip Hop artists Jonzi D and Kemono L. Riot, the visual artists and makers Mare Tralla, Gabriel Schmitz and Claudia Nocentini, the musicians Jon Bews and Rob Armitage and the fashion designer Alison Harm.

The Research Residencies are in partnership with our major partners Edinburgh’s Dance Base and Aberdeen’s Citymoves – two of Scotland’s national centres for dance. We deliver those through regular open calls and enable dance artists to undertake week-long research residencies at the studios of our partners. Most recently, the residents included Mairi Campbell, Kalubi Mukengela Jacoby, Shailini and Shashwati Vinod and Marianella Desanti (pictured below)

The University of Edinburgh and in particular Moray House School of Education and Sport is our major academic partner hosting more research residencies for traditional dance artists, which vary from long-term to short-term. The long-term residencies span an academic year, such as the recent residency of the US percussive dance artist Nic Gariess (pictured below), which continues to yield its legacy. The short-term residencies are formal placements at the Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland for dance artists who are undertaking their postgraduate studies in Dance Science and Education at the University of Edinburgh, most recently featuring Yingzhou Xie (Jayden), Lingqiao Hong (Ling) and Jiarui Liao (Rui)

Our ambition is to not only continue expanding these three programmes of the Primary, Festival and Research Residencies but also broker new such opportunities for trad dance artists across the country, including at national and regional museums and galleries, community schools and care homes, as well as internationally through our European and US partners. 


Tha D airson Dannsa | D is for Dance 

As we are planning the next iteration of Tha D airson Dannsa | D is for Dance, allow us to reflect on this first-of-its kind Gaelic-speaking traditional dance artists-in-residency programme which we initially ran from April 2023 to April 2024 at Bun Sgoil Taobh na Pàirce – Edinburgh and Lothians only Gaelic-medium primary school. Our programme provided consistent (not one-off) weekly after-school Scottish stepdance workshops free-of-charge to over 20 upper primary students through the medium of Gaelic. The workshops were delivered by two local trad dance artists Eleanor Sinclair and Alison Carlyle who were supported by three local Gaelic singers Annmarie Mcruary, Sarah Moore and Catriona Nicholson providing tuition and accompaniment in Gaelic mouth music known as puirt à beul. 

In addition, Tha D airson Dannsa | D is for Dance was celebrated through several public engagement events, including Christmas (pictured above) and Easter sharings for the local Gaelic-speaking community at the school. It culminated in a fully-booked matinee performance (pictured below but do watch this short video here) shared with Gaelic, English, Chinese and Ukrainian-speaking communities as part of Pomegranates Festival Family Day on 28 April 2024 on the Netherbow Theatre stage at the Scottish Storytelling Centre – our springtime festival for world trad dance across venues in Edinburgh. We caught up with our Tha D airson Dannsa | D is for Dance resident artist Alison Carlyle, soon after the final sharing and talked about stepdance and puirt à beul. As a percussive dance form which has its roots in Scotland in the 18th Century mass emigration and cultural suppression, stepdance was lost in Scotland but preserved and developed in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia by Scottish emigrants and brought back to Scotland by their descendants in the 1990s. Originally it would have been danced to puirt à beul – a Gaelic tradition of vocal music that replicates the rhythms and melodies typically played on instruments and which was often used to accompany dancing when instruments weren’t available. Alison also said:

Catriona Nicholson and I have really enjoyed teaching the puirt à beul and stepdance in the Tha D airson Dannsa | D is for Dance after school club. Over our two terms together the group has worked hard on learning lots of songs and steps – but we’ve also had so much fun. Stepdance is made up of improvised sequences of learned steps, so our sessions involved the children developing both the ability to learn and remember the intricate movements and precise rhythms of the steps themselves, and the ability to link those together in a way which works with the songs. It’s also a creative form, and we worked together to make up some new steps and step patterns, with the children enjoying the chance to express themselves through dance. Through the puirt a beul the children learned new Gaelic vocabulary as well as focussing on singing the words quickly and accurately so that they could be danced to, experimenting with different styles and speeds of singing and how that affected the dance. A lot of the songs generated interesting discussions about Gaelic culture and history, and created the opportunity for the children to develop their knowledge of cultural heritage and their linguistic skills in a gentle, informal way. The classes were run through the medium of Gaelic so that the children were using the language in a social yet focussed environment. All of the children were engaged in both dancing and singing. As well as having the opportunity to improvise their own individual steps to each other’s singing, the children also worked in groups to choreograph dances to the songs they’d learned, choosing their particular favourite steps and agreeing which worked best to different parts of the songs. It was great to see them working as a team and supporting their peers – over the time we spent together the group developed a real sense of community and belonging. Of course, teaching something is always a great opportunity to learn yourself – Catriona and I both learned a lot about each other’s art form and developed our own skills, but the children’s engagement with the songs and steps was also very inspiring and often thought-provoking. We’ve been absolutely delighted with how much the children have learned and how much they’ve enjoyed the classes as part of Tha D airson Dannsa | D is for Dance.
Alison Carlyle

We were encouraged to see how Alison Carlyle and Catriona Nicholson were able to build on the success of this innovative initiative of ours and set up a series of Scottish stepdance and puirt à beul for young people in Portobello but outside of the formal education setting. Importantly, the Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development, Kaukab Stewart commended us for the first-ever Family Day in the history of the Pomegranates Festival, including the Tha D airson Dannsa | D is for Dance sharing, in her welcome speech as part of her public festival presentation on 25 April 2024 at the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

If this first iteration of Tha D airson Dannsa | D is for Dance explored the relationship between Gaelic song and dance covering strathspeys, reels, jigs, Scottish step and puirt à beul and provided space for over 20 young people, aged 8 to 12 to learn and practise, the sharings helped us engage a wider intergenerational demographic, encouraging engagement with Gaelic in social contexts.


Going forward, we do believe that Gaelic trad dance and song have tremendous potential for asserting Gaelic arts and culture in a safe and receptive environment and hope that in the very near future we will be able to delve deeper into the underexplored pedagogical and performative links between Scottish stepdance and puirt à beul. We will continie to provide curatorial opportunities for resident artists in Scottish stepdance and puirt à beul and their young co-artists to perform on ours stages and spaces, including as part of Pomegranates.




Curated by Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland, Tha D airson Dannsa | D is for Dance initially ran from April 2023 to April 2024 at Bun Sgoil Taobh na Pàirce – Edinburgh and Lothians only Gaelic-medium primary school with the support of a Taic Freumhan Coimhearsnachd (Community Fund) award by Bòrd na Gàidhlig. 


The title image is a portrait of Alison Carlyle – one of our Tha D airson Dannsa | D is for Dance resident artists. All images and videos © our contributors.



TRACS officially appointed as UNESCO Advisor on Intangible Cultural Heritage

Photo above: Steve Byrne, Director of TRACS and David Francis, Director of the Traditional Music Forum at UNESCO HQ in Paris to witness the designation of TRACS as an NGO Advisor to UNESCO on ICH.

TRACS (Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland) collected their official accreditation as NGO Advisor to UNESCO on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) this month in Paris, at the tenth session of the General Assembly of the States Parties to the Convention at UNESCO’s Headquarters on 11 and 12 June.

This appointment means that TRACS is now officially recognised internationally for the work they have been doing on ICH and, along with Museums and Galleries Scotland, are one of only two organisations in Scotland who are experts on intangible cultural heritage and advisors in this field. Both organisations along with Historic Environment Scotland and Creative Scotland are part of the ICH Scotland Partnership Group which was sent up to safeguard ICH in Scotland and help drive forward UK ratification of the 2003 UNESCO Convention for Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Ratification finally took place in April 2024, with the Convention coming into force in the UK on 7th June. The UK’s accession was warmly welcomed at the Paris meeting, along with San Marino and Libya, taking the number of states to 183 worldwide who are now party to the ICH Convention.

Intangible Cultural Heritage is a tradition, practice, or living expression of a group or community. This can include oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, and traditional crafts. Examples of ICH in Scotland are wide reaching and include practices such as Shetland’s Up Helly Aa Festival or the Edinburgh Mela, cultural traditions such as bothy ballads, bagpiping, and clootie wells, traditional games such as shinty, the making of food such as haggis, and traditional crafts such as thatching and Fair Isle knitting.

Director of TRACS Steve Byrne said:

“Our accreditation alongside the UK’s recent ratification of the Convention is a major step not just for TRACS but for our local traditions across these islands which have historically not had the same protection and respect as our built and natural environment in government policy and legislation. We are looking forward to taking part in the work of the international ICH NGO Forum, making connections with fellow NGOs from across the globe to share best practices on how to safeguard local traditions wherever they are, including those at real risk. TRACS will work with our own artform Forums for music, dance, storytelling – and soon, we hope – traditional crafts, to give voice to the living heritage of Scotland’s local communities, to celebrate these key parts of our individual and collective ways of life well into the future.”

Since it was set up in 2012, TRACS has been key to developing and showcasing Scotland’s rich cultural heritage, advocating for the traditional arts, and making music, storytelling and dance inclusive and accessible aspects of everyday life across Scotland. It has also been instrumental to the success of the annual Scottish International Storytelling Festival, and the People’s Parish Project which supports communities to discover and rediscover a ‘sense of place’ for present and future generations through stories, traditions, and heritage history led by local creative practitioners.


A dancer? Enrol in our new Traditional Dance Criticism Course

We are delighted to unveil the Traditional Dance Criticism Course – our new curatorial initiative designed to help dance practitioners advance their professional development and engage with the world of dance journalism. The course will provide an insight into what working in the journalism industry involves, with a focus on traditional dance writing and publishing, pitching new ideas, and critic’s ethics.

The Traditional Dance Criticism Course is divided into 8 curated modules making it easy to follow along and revisit the materials in your own time and at your own pace. You will have access to the course materials, assessments, tutorials, study resources and mentorship support. If you are new to working in this industry and want to gain a basic level of understanding of writing and journalism, this course will equip you with the knowledge and support you may need to know more.

Intrigued? Read all the guidelines below to find out more, including how to apply by filling in this brief application form online as an expression of interest by the deadline of 1 July 2024. Please note that the submissions are now closed.

However, if you are bringing a performative or a participatory show rooted in Scottish or world traditional dance to any of the Edinburgh summer festivals this year, please get the person involved with publicity to email us at by 22 July 2024. This would help us make sure we don’t miss anyone out as we select shows to be listed as part of our #traddance campaign and reviewed as part of the first-of-its-kind Traditional Dance Criticism Course. 


TRADitional DANCE CRITICISM Course Overview 
  • Course Type: 60% Online and 40% In-person Course
  • Syllabus: 8 course modules
  • Duration: 12.5 hours, guided
  • Timeframe: 23 July – 26 August 2024
  • Publication: Yes, via Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland
  • Tutor Support: Support and mentorship included
  • Price: Free, thanks to funding provided by TASGAQH
Learning Outcomes
  1. At the end of the course, you will be equipped with the tools to evaluate traditional dance in a performance and participatory context, as well as think and write critically about traditional dance. 
  2. This course will also provide you with a practical, industry-focused skills set that will enable you to pitch your ideas to future interested publications and outlets. 
  3. As a key outcome of the course you will write at least 2 critical pieces of about 350-word each based on a traditional dance experience in a performance and participatory context as part of the Edinburgh summer festivals 2024, to be published by the Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland. 
Course Syllabus
  • Introduction to dance criticism 
  • Focus on traditional dance 
  • Overview of the journalism industry and ethics
  • Assignment of selected shows 
  • Individual traditional dance critical writing following visits to selected shows at Edinburgh summer festivals
  • Group feedback 
  • Individual tutorials
  • Publication of Individual traditional dance critical writing 
Course Activities 
  • Group visits to two dance performances as part of Edinburgh summer festivals 2024 
  • Facilitated individual visits to dance performances as part of Edinburgh summer festivals 2024 
  • Discussing ideas and gaining feedback on your written work
  • Developing an individual critical approach and writing style
  • Exploring opportunities for publishing work
  • Amplifying the role of traditional dance in participatory and performance settings and the press

The course support will be discussed on the first day of the Traditional Dance Criticism Course. You will have access to the course materials, assessments, tutorials, study resources and mentorship support. Upon successful completion of the Traditional Dance Criticism Course you will be able to add their newly-gained skills and achievements to their CV.

Entry requirements

The Traditional Dance Criticism Course is suitable for dance artists and practitioners who want to enhance their understanding of traditional dance criticism, improve their critical writing skills and explore finding a personal voice. 

No previous knowledge of traditional dance criticism is required. A good grasp of spoken and written English and dance experience, however, is essential. Please note that this course is for learners aged 18 and older who are planning to be based in and around Edinburgh for the duration of the in-person components of the course 31 July-26 August 2024. 

Enrolling in the Traditional Dance Criticism Course 2024 is free of charge for up to 6 learners due to the Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland securing funding from TASGAQH. Therefore, the entry to the course in 2024 is based on filling in this brief application form online as an expression of interest:

Following the submission deadline of 1 July 2024 11:59 British Summer Time, up to 6 learners will be selected to undertake the Traditional Dance Criticism Course 2024. The selection panel includes the tutor and representatives of the Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland. Applicants will be selected on the basis of their dance background and interest in Scottish and world traditional dance, alongside having a clear and defined need for why they wish to take part in the course and how it will benefit their wider practice. All applicants will be notified by 3 July 2024. The course will run online and in-person 23 July – 26 August 2024.

Course Background

The Traditional Dance Criticism Course is the first of its kind. It is curated by the Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland in response to the fact that the wider journalism industry falls short of traditional dance criticism. Criticism is typically described as the descriptive analysis of a dance performance that is printed, broadcast or transmitted electronically. Although there has been an increased academic discourse around traditional dance in Scotland, most recently with the publication of books like Dance Legacies of Scotland by Mats Melin and Scottish Dance Beyond 1805: Reaction and Regulation by Patricia H. Ballantyne, there has been virtually no traditional dance criticism in the mainstream media. 

As a producing company conceiving, curating and touring new traditional dance performances, Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland fills in a significant genre gap in Scotland’s performing arts ecology. In relation to this we have also identified the need for an informed critical discourse around those staged performances rooted in traditional dance.

The pilot Traditional Dance Criticism Course will run 23 July – 26 August 2024 alongside Edinburgh’s summer festivals. It will build on the Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland initiative for highlighting the contribution of traditional dance artists in the programmes of Edinburgh’s summer festivals for the last two years. In 2022 we hand-picked just over ten shows with trad dance roots. In 2023 we selected 20 shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe alone, including our Fringe debut as producers Thistles and Sunflowers.

The course is thus framed around selected Edinburgh’s summer festivals shows. This is to allow the participating learners access to world premieres and space for critical discourse, as well as an opportunity to contribute to the summer festivals. Learners are expected to produce at least two critical responses to the shows in both performative and participatory context of about 350 words each, ranging from traditional reviews to creative reflections, depending on their individual interest.

Course Tutor

The Traditional Dance Criticism Course will be led by the established dance writer and editor based in Scotland and the USA Róisín O’Brien. It will be supported pro bono by Dr Wendy Timmons, Senior Lecturer in Dance Science and Education at the University of Edinburgh and part of the Editorial Board for Research in Dance Education Journal. 

Róisín O’Brien’s experience includes:

  • Contribution to bylines in The Guardian, Fjord Review, Springback Magazine and The Skinny. Editor for European organisation Aerowaves on 25 years of Aerowaves special publication and Springback Magazine collaboration with Norrlandsoperan Re-Think project.
  • Experience in delivering dance writing workshops and courses for Aberdeen’s CityMoves DanceLive Festival; Scotland’s festival of dance on screen, i.e festival; UK-wide publication dance art journal and the University of Glasgow.
  • Expertise in contemporary dance and ballet, but with knowledge of how to apply and bring critical skills to different art practices and forms, including Scottish and world traditional dance.
Course Schedule
  • 23 July 2024 6-8pm | Online | Module 1 and Module 2
  • Introduction to dance criticism. Overview of Scottish and world traditional dance
  • 25 July 2024 6-8pm | Online | Module 3 and Module 4
  • Overview of the journalism industry and ethics. Assignment of selected shows
  • 31 July 2024 6-8pm | In-person | Module 5
  • Group Visit to a dance performance at the Edinburgh International Fringe
  • 1-10 Aug 2024  | Online and In-person | Module 6
  • Individual self-guided visits to dance performances and participatory events at Edinburgh Summer Festivals. Tutor’s feedback on critical writing assignment. Publishing of new critical writing
  • 11 Aug 2024 3-4pm | In-person | Module 7
  • Group visit to a dance performance at the Edinburgh International Festival
  • 12-26 Aug 2024 | Online and In-person | Module 8
  • Individual visits to dance performances and participatory events at Edinburgh Summer Festivals. Tutor’s feedback on critical writing assignments. Publishing of new critical writing

Course impact

It is important to note that any art form, including any form of Scottish and world traditional dance, grows and broadens its own creative possibilities when in conversation with a knowledgeable and critical surrounding discourse. Increased discussion of an art form not only enriches its artists, it also brings the art form into greater visibility in the wider public imagination, which can ultimately bring in new communities and audiences and help secure the art form’s standing in a cultural ecosystem.

Through the Traditional Dance Criticism Course we, at Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland, seek to achieve the following long-lasting and wide-reaching impact:

  • Nurture a new community of trad dance critics in Scotland who could continue to apply their new skills thereafter
  • Convert dance practitioners whose interests extend beyond the physical act of dancing to the critical analysis of dance performances
  • Develop a strong foundation in diverse traditional dance criticism across Scotland
  • Empower anyone undertaking this course to contribute to the celebration and appreciation of the diverse traditional dance forms we feel so passionate about and the intangible cultural heritage they embody
  • Form a group of knowledgeable traditional dance specialists who can engage with the discipline in an insightful and curious manner, and promote Scottish and world traditional dance to the wider public
  • Work towards launching a new traditional dance criticism platform to merge our love for trad dance and the written word and promote it through our online presence on and
  • Work towards an independently-certified Continuing Professional Development opportunity with guidance, mentorship and resources to excel in the field of Scottish and world traditional dance criticism


Images by Neil Hanna from our production Elegies performed as part of Pomegranates Festival on 27 April 2024 at Netherbow Theatre, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh. Elegies is the first dance adaptation for the stage of Hamish Henderson’s series of poems Elegies for the Dead in Cyrenaica (1948). Further details 


The pilot edition of the Traditional Dance Criticism Course is funded through TASGADH – a small traditional arts grant awarded to Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland. 



Scottish Music Playlist (36) – New Releases

Our latest playlist of new Scottish music releases includes tracks from James Ross and Maxwell Quartet, Katie & Laura Macfarlane, Church Street Shuffle, Dougie MacLean, Niteworks ft. SIAN, Laura Jane Wilkie, Project Smok, Jack Badcock, Eleanor Dunsdon and Gregor Black, and Dlù.

Follow the TMF on Spotify to keep up to date with all playlists.


Time for Another Story – Season 2 Launches!

Following last year’s podcast success, the Scottish International Storytelling Festival (SISF) organised by Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland (TRACS) launches a second series of its popular podcast Another Story (today) 21 May.

Kicking off the series will be a new hour-long episode of chat, stories, music and folk song from Shona Cowie and Neil Sutcliffe, whose sell-out show Rickle O Stanes premiered earlier this month.

Rickle O Stanes is a show about Scotland’s land: its rocks and mud, what it has grown, the lives it has sustained, and how it has been bought, fought for and wounded. Packed into an entertaining hour of plotted history bound together in the traditional tale of Fintan MacBochra, the shapeshifting first man in Ireland, the show traces a line from a free country, to one owned by a few. The podcast discussion was first recorded for broadcast on EHFM and includes an introduction by Daniel Abercrombie, Associate Director of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, songs and music from the show, and interviews with performers Neil and Shona.

Listen to Episode Here

The Another Story podcast series will continue throughout the summer with monthly episodes. These include a chat with storytellers from the Village Storytelling Centre in Glasgow, and various guests who are taking part in this year’s Scottish International Storytelling Festival which will run from 18 to 31 October 2024 thanks to continued support from the Scottish Government’s Festivals Expo Fund and Creative Scotland.

The Scottish International Storytelling Festival is the world’s largest celebration of storytelling and 2024 marks the 35th anniversary of the Festival which coincides with the 35th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The theme is ‘Bridges Between’ and the festival is commissioning new work which looks at how societies can ‘build bridges’ between cultures, artists and audiences all over the world through the power of storytelling.

Artists confirmed for this year include: Janis Mackay, Inés Álvarez Villa, Dougie Mackay, Ailie Finlay, and Linda Williamson, who will be joined by international storytellers from India, Ireland and the Storytelling Arena in Berlin.

Daniel Abercrombie, Associate Director of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival said: ‘We are delighted to offer a platform to these wonderful storytellers, who can share their stories across the world in a friendly, informal way, which is so suitable for the storytelling experience.’

Another Story Podcast


Successful Year for Pomegranates International Traditional Dance Festival

2024 was another successful year for our Pomegranates Festival which ended on 30 April. The packed five-day programme of traditional dance, poetry, art and fashion, saw ticket sales up by 50% on 2023, fully-booked free family events and a packed house for fashion designer Alison Harm’s show featuring her latest collection made from sustainable tartan which was at the heart of this year’s festival exhibition exploring the links between the tartan cloth and the Scottish and Irish dance traditions.

Supported by Creative Scotland’s Traditional Dance Target Fund and other partners, the Pomegranates Festival celebrates Scottish traditional dance and diverse traditional dance practised by cultural migrant communities across Scotland. Now in its third year, the festival has grown from a two-day showcase of work performed by local Edinburgh-based dancers, into a five day festival showcasing new work choreographed by guest artists. 

This year’s choreographer in residence was the highly acclaimed, MC, dancer, and spoken word artist Jonzi D who is the founder of Breakin’ Convention and widely recognised for his influence on the development of the UK British hip hop dance and theatre scene. Jonzi D’s new work United Nations? created in just two days and performed by 20 international dancers resident in Edinburgh, Stirling and Glasgow, was premiered at this year’s festival on International Dance Day (Monday 29 April). This powerful piece was a fantastic achievement and complemented new work by festival artists-in-residence, including new poetry written and read by Perthshire bard Jim Mackintosh and a new film created by Scottish Estonian artist Mare Tralla.


United Nations? new dance theatre show choreographed by guest artist Jonzi D at the Netherbow Theatre, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh Photo by Basya Volodarskaya. Courtesy Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland 


Jim Mackintosh, who was the poet-in-residence at this year’s Pomegranates Festival, penned a series of newly-commissioned reflections in verse, including the United Nations of Dance, which gave rise to the title of the new hip hop theatre piece as part of the festival finale triple bill We are Migrant. Entitled United Nations? this new dance theatre show choreographed by guest artist Jonzi D for 19 Scottish artists and musicians at the Netherbow Theatre, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh.

step into the chamber of music and dance

your nation’s playbook of politics

now a charter of choreography

embracing each other’s culture

expectations and ambitions through

centuries of rhythm, no abstentions

allowed, no council member’s veto

defining futures in the theatre of war

in the trenches of oppression but here

now in the Palace of Peace here now

in our United Nations of Dance – always

Extract from United Nations of Dance by Jim Mackintosh



The book cover of We are Migrant (Seahorse Publications, 2024) by Jim Mackintosh which was launched as part of the the festival finale triple bill


“We are delighted that this year’s festival was packed with so many events representing the diversity and wealth of traditional dance at our shores, as well as the intrinsic connection of Scottish and world trad dance with live music, poetry, film, heritage crafts, fashion and storytelling. We are very proud that for the third year now Pomegranates has served a cocktail of fascinating movement to over 4,000 estimated audiences and participants from Scotland, as well as worldwide via our festival livestreams.

We couldn’t be more proud sharing this long weekend with over 100 trad dance artists, musicians, young people and creatives as they took over our stages, screens and spaces. We believe that Pomegranates has now taken roots in Scotland’s cultural calendar celebrating traditional dance from all corners of the world and from around the corner – all practised in Scotland by first and second generation of cultural migrants – from the Scottish Gaelic singing and step dancing to Highland and Ceilidh, from Ukrainian folk and Palestinian Dabkeh to Lindy Hop and Hip Hop.” 

Wendy Timmons and Iliyana Nedkova, Co-curators and producers of the Pomegranates Festival 


Why Pomegranates Festival matter? We bring you the latest facts and figures, stats and sequins of the third Pomegranates Festival 2024 below. Download the six-page booklet here





In 2025 we have plans to tour our dance theatre piece Elegies which weaves together dance theatre, spoken word and live music. The piece, which was performed for the second time only, during this year’s Pomegranates Festival, is the first and only dance adaptation of the poetry book Elegies for the Dead in Cyrenaica (1948) by Hamish Henderson (1919-2002). Henderson was a soldier-poet, singer-songwriter and scholar-folk revivalist of Scotland, and Elegies is set in a dancehall and a desert during the Second World War. The production is centred around new ensemble choreography by George Adams which embodies ceilidh, jive, swing and lindy hop, accompanied by Henderson’s poems read by spoken word artists Morag Anderson and Stephen Watt, and live music and vocals from multi-instrumentalist Cera Impala.


Elegies performed during this year’s festival. Photos credit Neil Hanna. Courtesy Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland


2025 will also see the festival continue to work with the City of Perth to bring Europeade to Scotland in 2026. The Europeade is the largest festival of European traditional dance, costume and music and its President Rudiger Hess was a guest at this year’s Festival. Endorsed by Kaukab Stewart,  the Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development, the Europeade festival will see over 5000 traditional dancers from across Europe spend five days in Perth in July 2026 which will be the first time the UK has ever hosted this event in six decades of the festival’s history.  



The Pomegranates Festival plans to return to Edinburgh in spring 2025 with a new five day programme of Scottish and world  traditional dance from 25-30 April 2025:

The Festival is initiated and curated by Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland and presented and produced in partnership with Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland, Moray House School of Education and Sport, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh City Libraries, Dance Base and the Scottish Storytelling Centre.  The Pomegranates Festival is funded by TRACS (Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland), Creative Scotland Traditional Dance Target Fund, The William Syson Foundation and Scottish Community Alliance through Pockets and Prospects Fund. 


Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland 

Established in 2014,Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland is the only national organisation of its kind dedicated to the advancement of all forms of traditional and social dance. Our mission is to advocate for and support the diverse trad dance forms practised in Scotland ranging from Ceilidh to Old Time, Swing to Hip Hop as an integral part of our global intangible cultural heritage. We are a registered charity (SCIO SC045085) and a founding member of Traditional Arts & Culture Scotland (TRACS), alongside our friends at Traditional Music Forum and Scottish Storytelling Forum.


TRACS (Traditional Arts & Culture Scotland) (SCIO, SC043009) is a co-operative network which champions our shared traditions of music, song, storytelling, dance, crafts, customs and local languages. TRACS celebrates the local distinctiveness of Scotland’s places: our intangible cultural heritage. TRACS brings together the Traditional Music Forum (SCIO SC042867), the Scottish Storytelling Forum (SCIO SC052330) and the Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland (SCIO SC045085). Supported by Creative Scotland and The City of Edinburgh Council.


Moray House School of Education and Sport has been making a major contribution to the fields of education and sport for 175 years. Our staff, students and alumni have influenced, improved and transformed learning, teaching and policy worldwide. Our innovative and unique master’s in Dance Science and Education gives dancers the scientific theory and specialist skills to push the frontiers of dance and dance education. Moray House School of Education and Sport  MSc Dance Science and Education


Creative Scotland is the public body that supports culture and creativity across all parts of Scotland distributing funding provided by the Scottish Government and The National Lottery. Further information at Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Learn more about the value of art and creativity in Scotland and join in at    








News From The Village Storytelling Centre

Over in Glasgow we are gearing up for not only The Village Storytelling Festival (VSF24) but also the Federation of European Storytelling (FEST) conference! It is only a matter of time before both these two things collide at the CCA on Sauchiehall Street.  We are hugely excited to welcome everyone who’ll attend these events from Scotland, the UK, Europe and even further afield because it promises to be a wonderful week of story. If you haven’t seen the programme yet then please click here but let us give you a few highlights to whet your appetite!

Both FEST and the Festival kick off on Tuesday night with performances by The Village Storytellers with a piece called Against the Current, which celebrates all things Glasgow, followed by Land Under Wave by the Young Edinburgh Storytellers. Wednesday and Thursday will be filled with keynote speeches, workshops and presentations from across Europe as the FEST conference gets into full swing, the programme for these days is jam packed and it’ll be such a fantastic networking opportunity as well as a chance to be inspired by the rich tapestry of ideas, stories and practices from across the continent. During the evenings we’ll have the fabulous Niall Moorjani with their contemporary telling of Thomas the Rhymer, A Faerie Tale followed by Stephe Harrop’s piece Queens of Albion. Thursday sees Daiva Ivanauskaitė-Brown take us into the undergrowth with her piece first commissioned by SISF2023, Her Father Had Nothing to Say (Fire in the Woods) Followed by writer and performer Martin O Connor’s exploration of Glasgow languages in Togail Naisean/Re-Building a nation. Our two commissions this year will take place on Friday and Saturday night, firstly Inheritance by Lorna Callery-Sithole explores the seismic events of her childhood in Pollok. Secondly, we’ll have Smoke and Sickle by Emery Hunter, bringing ancient Selkie myths into the realms of BSL and Visual Vernacular.

We’ll also be bringing back some pieces first hosted at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Myth and Motherhood by Sarah Wedderburn-Ogilvy tells us tales of the high and lows of parenting, Orpheus/Orfeo by Daniel Serridge swirls an old Shetland ballad into the famous Greek myth and Twa Corbies by Linda Williamson tells Jack tales alongside animated film. Saturday see our family day get into full swing with immersive storytelling experiences in The Story Dome. Welsh, Irish and English collide in Mali and the Sea told by the majestic voice of Tamar Eluned Williams. For those with really wee ones then come and get silly in Scots with Ishbel McFarlane’s interactive session, Scots an Weans: a fun session of story and song and Scots. Saturday night concludes with a piece all the way from Amsterdam.  Saffron performed by Hala Salem explores Palestinian identity through the lens of the body in this ground breaking blend of Arabic folk music and electronica.

The Festival will be littered with more relaxed storytelling performances from a variety of tellers. Talkin’ Bout my Generation tells tales of generational difference and similarity. The Village Storytellers Emerging Storytellers programme comes to the end with a selection of new voices to the scene and every evening in the bar we’ll be hosting open storytelling nights for those with a story to share, a song to sing or anything else that they can throw into the mix!

Our community programme sees performances exploring the language of the LGBTQIA+ community through, By Any Other Name. Our Young Storytellers with a performance that weaves story with a graphic novel in Break a Leg. Intimate performances delving into friendship by participants with profound learning needs in Not Words But Meanings. There’ll also be a lively and ghoulish session from the Barrhead Folk Collective who will tell tales to chill your bones. As well as all that, The festival concludes on Sunday with our big community day in Pollok, Minifest.

Phew! If you’re as out of breath reading that as we are writing it then hopefully it has given you at least a picture of many things we have to offer but there’s so much more too! Please check out the programme of the Festival and FEST, sign up, buy tickets and get in touch if you need to find out more. We are so excited, and we hope you are too. Come one, come all to VSF24!

Thanks and see you soon

The Village Storytelling Centre

VSF runs June 25th – 30th 2024


The Treasure of a Warm Welcome

By Claire McNicol

In 2022, I took part in a collaboration between the National Library of Scotland with Learning Officer Beverley Casebow and the Welcoming, an organisation which does what it says on the tin, offering support for New Scots to integrate in their new communities.

Given the turmoil that was going on in the World, it was a year since the Taliban reclaimed Afghanistan and six months since Russia invaded Ukraine, there was a pressing need for children and families who have experienced severance from the land of their birth to be offered solace and sanctuary whilst they re-orientate, recuperate and repair.

And what better way than by singing a song of Welcome – naming each person in the room and clapping for joy that they are present, democracy in action, each life of equal value.

As a storyteller with 30 years experience in the field of social work, I have collaborated with a wide range of organisations. Truly, there is nothing I enjoy more than a good collaboration.  I am increasingly convinced that as a society we need to compete less and collaborate more.   So it was in the crucible of collaboration that a relationship between the National Library of Scotland and the Welcoming was forged.

Our summer workshops with the Welcoming were preceded by three family workshops between April and June on the themes of:

Treasure Boxes

Treasures of the Sea and

Treasures of the Land.

By happenstance we had a mother and daughter attend workshop 1 who had arrived in Edinburgh from Hong Kong ten months previously.  Another family from Hong Kong a mother and son who had only arrived three months previously attended workshop 2.  Serendipitously, both families attended workshop three.  We could see that the 7year old boy had a little more English and a little more confidence due to the passage of a month, but it was just a joy to see him light up at the opportunity to play with a little girl of his own age who spoke Cantonese, his Mother tongue.  The two children had SO much fun that afternoon whilst their mothers shared experiences.  I learned a huge amount about what is actually happening in Hong Kong by listening.  One woman explained that the Chinese government has completely changed the History that is taught in schools, obliterating any trace of the history of Hong Kong.  Some weeks later when I heard of the sinking of an iconic ship, which symbolized the splendor of Hong Kong, I wondered if this was an act of sabotage.

We had three different groups attend our craft and storytelling workshops in July.

On day 2 we welcomed a large group of 30 women and children from Afghanistan.  I had a lightening flash of inspiration as I left my house and stopped to gather some lavender.    I began by asking the group if lavender grows in Afghanistan, they all nodded and there was discussion about what the word for lavender is in Darsi.  We were very fortunate to have volunteers, including two who were helping with translation.

Zahra one of the volunteers, who translated for the group, grew up in Iran where her father worked for the UN, he travelled back and forth to work in Afghanistan and she imbibed much knowledge about the country from her father.  Zahra and I took the women and children around the Treasures exhibition and as I highlighted particular exhibits I was struck forcibly by how culturally subversive a figure such as Isobel Wylie Hutchinson is to a society where women’s rights are so brutally suppressed.  Isobel was the first woman to win a prize from the National Geographic Society in 1934 for her extensive travels in North Alaska and Greenland.  The beauty of a story is it is seemingly ‘just a story’.  I am finding in these times we live in my experiences of storytelling as a subversive force are becoming increasingly frequent!

Whilst showing the group around the PEN exhibition I remarked that I would love to see some writing in Dari. One young woman was inspired to create a language-sharing poster for me and invited me to practice writing in Pashto and Persian. I learned a lot including the value of talking about the meaning of names as a wonderful way of exploring more about cultural identity. Having explained that Claire means light in French I discovered that the names Huda and Dia also mean light in Arabic.

A mother and son from Ukraine enjoyed fashioning their own unique treasure boxes. The little boy is a huge Harry Potter fan and since arriving in the UK has had the opportunity to visit platform 9 and ¾ at in London.  To our mutual delight we discovered a Ukrainian translation of Harry Potter in the Treasure exhibition.   It strikes me when our physical and material worlds suffer huge upheaval and disruption our imaginations have the capacity to offer us powerful protection.


On our first day we had a family from Afghanistan who were new to the Welcoming arrive for the workshop.  The father had to leave after showing his wife and children the location of the library.  There was a little girl of @ 18 months in a buggy, dressed in a peach coloured dress, sewn with pearls. Her mum later told me the dress was handmade in Afghanistan and these kinds of dresses are very popular. The two little boys were beautifully dressed in matching shirts, the eldest who was 7 wore sunglasses and he stood holding the hand of his younger brother who was about five and had striking blue/green eyes.  Later the older brother spontaneously kissed his little sister on the head. The love in this family was palpable.

Initially the little girl was in her buggy and was creaking her neck a little to see me above the height of the table. After I told the first story about a Star Apple, I gave the little girl a box full of treasures from the sea: sea glass, driftwood and smooth pebbles.  She loved lifting one at a time, placing the treasure in my hand, looking deep into my eyes as she did so.  I was struck over the course of the three days how much I relied upon sustained eye contact, to connect and communicate.  I have been very fortunate to learn from some of Scotland’s most iconic Traveller Storytellers such as Duncan Williamson and Stanley Robertson, they taught me that stories and songs are shared, ‘eye to eye, heart to heart and mind to mind”.  I find it instructive how long it took science to prove the validity of this folk wisdom with the discovery that mirror neurons fire in our brains when we ‘synch’ in our communication.

At the end of this workshop the mother of these three children looked at me, put her hand on her heart and said, “I am SO happy”.  I put my hand on my heart in reply and said, “I am really glad”.  I felt touched to witness an emotional arc for this family from tentative yet hopeful to trusting and happy.

This welcome of the newcomers is at the very heart of the tradition of storytelling.

The Celtic Tradition of Hospitality was as follows, a stranger would come to the door, they would be welcomed in, offered food and drink and a bed for the night, before they even spoke their name.

Yestreen I saw a stranger and I brought him in, I put food in the eating place, drink in the drinking place and music song and story in the listening place.

Hard to beat the Treasure of a Warm Welcome and I felt honoured and blessed in return by these Strangers who are now new Scots.   As Duncan Williamson often said, “A stranger is just a friend who you have not yet met.

As I cycled up the Mound to the National Library it struck me that the words of ‘Aye Fond Kiss’, are so pertinent to the sorrowful partings that people from Afghanistan, Ukraine and beyond have experienced.  And so at the close of our workshops we sang the song the melody of which speaks to sorrow even where words might not be fully understood.  Then we laughed and said “We have a more joyful song to say goodbye, also written by Robert Burns” and we all stood holding hands and sang “Auld Lang Syne.”


Scottish Music Playlist (35) – New Releases

Delve into new Scottish music releases with our latest playlist, featuring tracks from Charlie Grey & Joseph Peach, An Dannsa Dub, Tarran, Mairearad Green, Valtos ft. Julie Fowlis, Ross Couper Band, Capercaillie with BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Talisk, Tide Lines, and Maya’s Radio Orchestra.

Follow the TMF on Spotify to keep up to date with all playlists.


FISHING by Stephanïe Vandëm – A New Exhibition Inspired by Scottish Fishing Communities and Seascapes

FISHING by Stephanïe Vandëm – Opens 3 May until 15 June

Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh EH1 1SR

A new exhibition inspired by Scottish fishing communities and seascapes will go on display at the Scottish Storytelling Centre as part of the TRACS programme during Edinburgh Tradfest from 3 May to 15 June 2024.

Artist Stephanïe Vandëm imaginatively combines oils and mixed media materials salvaged from harbours, beaches and shipyards to create large-scale works that evoke the linkages between the communities of the North East of Scotland and their fishing heritage. 

Drawing from the rich traditions of Renaissance and Latin American art, FISHING will present 13 semi-sculptural works that explore the pressing environmental and identity concerns of our time. 

Rubber gloves, ropes, nets, buoys, and crab shells are used to give tri dimensionality and texture to the works. Plastic sushi fish drained of their soy lifeforce cling to the surfaces making us ponder their infinite life expectancy and the material’s detriment to all sea and land-living creatures. Screws, nails, and other metal bits left by the artist’s late husband populate the paintings’ surfaces recreating the colours and textures of a busy shipyard. Pinecones turned into lobster tails; twigs turned into crab’s eyes all used to create compositions that connect us emotionally to Time, Identity, Heritage, and the Environment.

Artist Stephanie Vandëm explains: “My work is firmly rooted in classical principles, merging time-tested oil painting techniques and semi-abstraction, to pressing contemporary themes and universal human struggles, resulting in monumental semi-sculptural paintings.

“The pieces resemble an archaeological find sedimented in cement, sand, metal and found objects. They create puzzles, connecting the personal, political, and spiritual elements of my own life and practice. Aberdeenshire’s motto, ‘from mountain to sea’ inspired me throughout this collection.”

Sculptural pieces in the exhibition include boxes encased in sand, cement and the ‘bones’ of a metal creel looking like they have been hauled from the sea depths, bearing witness to the many lives lost across generations and continents. 

The tactile and playful nature of the work invites audiences to interact with it by moving the ropes and nets, to create new images and build stories within stories to explore beneath the surface layers leaving space for personal interpretations.

Steve Byrne, Director of TRACS said: “As someone who grew up on Scotland’s east coast, I was immediately struck by the familiarity and strong imagery of Stephanie’s work. It resonated with me and the sense of place I feel about that part of the world. I recognised the shapes and colours of the kind of work taking place in harbours up and down the coast that have been a key part of local communities for decades.

In celebrating the contribution of fisher folk, the exhibition gives voice to those involved in a precarious industry that has so much heritage, tradition and craft to explore, which often mean a great deal to fisher folk and their families. The works also challenge us to think about our impact on the environment through the inclusion of shore finds, opening up conversations around sustainability. At TRACS we look forward to helping safeguard that living heritage and lore, the traditions and customs of fisher communities through our developing work with Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in Scotland.” 

The exhibition will also be complemented by information panels on traditional craftwork related to fishing communities, in partnership with the Scottish Fisheries Museum at Anstruther. 

About the artist

Brazilian by birth and educated in Paris, London, New York, and Florence Stephanïe Vandëm worked extensively abroad before settling in the Northeast of Scotland. Her style lies between realism and abstraction, painting and sculpture with a strong sense of narrative derived from the artist’s Latin American roots. The artist’s creative practice is a fusion of videography, soundscapes, installations, social media participation and mixed-media that creates engaging and powerful contemporary pieces.

With some awards under her belt, Stephanïe Vandëm works in her studio between the mountains and the sea in the idyllic Scottish countryside. The artist’s strong background in the world of portraiture also sees her work on many private commissions, including painting the formal portrait of the Bishop of Aberdeen. Her pieces can be found in many national and international private collections such as the luxury Fife Arms Hotel, owned by international art dealer Iwan Wirth.

FISHING is part of TRACS’ (Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland) programme of events showcasing Scotland’s traditional arts and cultural heritage.  TRACS has been recently appointed as an advisor to UNESCO on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in Scotland and this exhibition showcases ICH in practice through highlighting the unique ways of life, practices, and rich folklore of fishing communities on the east coast of Scotland. 

Event Information